Better known to American hunters as Sprig, the Northern Pintail (Anas Acuta) specific name is from the Latin for pointed or acuter, in reference to the two elongated, pin-like central tail feathers of drakes, that account for a quarter of their 29 inch length. Their huge breeding range encompasses most of the Holarctic region. While the highly migratory ducks nest farther north than any other dabbler, they winter as far as south as Tanzania and northern Colombia, but nearly half the American birds congregate in California. Wintering pintail are not adverse to salt water, and many seek brackish estuaries and coastal lagoons. Often flying in long lines or V-formation, their swift flight is dashing, and they plummet down rapidly from great heights, twisting and turning on set wings. Long necks enable the pintail to not only feed in deeper water, but also to peer over the tall grass that is characteristic of many of their haunts. The striking ducks take advantage of upland stubble fields and rice, cereal and potato crops, particularly during cold weather, when marshes are frozen. Pair bonds are normally formed during the spring passage, when drakes may pursue females for many miles for an hour or more, often very high in the sky. Numerous amorous suitors chase evasive females with such vigor that they occasionally die of exhaustion, especially if subjected to gang rape. Drakes are highly promiscuous, and broods may not necessarily be sired by the male of mated pairs. Very abundant in the Canadian prairie provinces, pairs frequently nest, in solitude or loose groups, in dry areas, sometimes in hay meadows or lightly grazed pastures. The American-breeding population alone may exceed ten million in some years. However pintails numbers fluctuate widely, and the ducks have not fared well in recent years due to especially severe flooding and drought.